Fewer Americans reported being obese in 2011, compared to years past, according to the latest Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.
In the poll released Tuesday, 26.1 percent of 300,000 Americans reported a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above in 2011, the classification for obesity. In 2009 and 2010, that percentage was 26.5 percent and 26.6 percent, respectively. Smaller decreases were seen in the number of those who are overweight but not obese.
The declines were largely offset by a slight increase in the percentage of Americans reporting a normal weight (or a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9). Last year, 36.1 percent reported themselves in this range, compared to 35.4 percent in 2010.
Gallup has tracked these numbers since 2008. The total percentage of overweight or obese Americans rose in 2008 and 2009, but has since declined slightly each year to a current level of 62.1 percent overall.
In 2011, low-income Americans, African-Americans, and people aged 45 to 64 were the most likely to be obese, while young adults and high-income Americans were the least likely.
Obesity is linked to chronic health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and heart attack.
Aside from the physical woes of obesity, the monetary costs are high as well. A December 2010 analysis by the Society of Actuaries estimates that the total cost of obesity to the U.S. economy has climbed as high as $270 billion, and Gallup’s own analysis found that obesity and related chronic health issues cost businesses alone upward of $150 billion annually.
While the slight drop in America’s obesity rate is a positive reversal of what was once a negative trend, more than one in four adults is still obese — so there’s still much work to be done.